Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Mme. Blavatsky Dead

End of the Life of the Investigator of Theosophy

[Reprinted from The New York Times, May 9, 1891, p. 1.]

A dispatch from London announces the death of Mme. Blavatsky of the Theosophical Society. She died in that city three weeks ago of influenza. The body was cremated.

Of Mme. Blavatsky’s parentage and early life little is definitely known. Her father was Col. Peter Hahn, a descendant of the titled family of Mecklenburg, and her mother Helen Fadeef, daughter of Privy Councilor, Andrew Fadeef and the Princess Helene Dolgorousky. She was born in Ekaterinoslav, Russia, in 1831.

At seventeen years of age, according to her own account, she married Nicephore Blavatsky, Councilor of State and Vice Governor of Erivan, an old man, and ran away from him a few weeks afterward, and traveled in Greece, Egypt, and India upon money supplied by her father. It was her business in life to surround herself with an atmosphere of romance and mystery, but it is certain that she did travel extensively, and the belief is widespread that she was a spy in the employ of the Russian Government.

It is popularly credited that she invented her theosophical humbug in India to cover political intrigues, and that when she was dropped by the Russian Government she used it as a means of livelihood. In 1870 she was expelled from Egypt while endeavouring to form a spiritualistic society, and in 1873 she made her appearance in this country, and was identified with the formation of the imposture known as the Mahatic movement, which to this day has its believers.

She met Col. H. S. Olcott in 1874. He was a New-York lawyer, assigned by a newspaper to write a series of articles upon a spiritualistic demonstration in Vermont. She induced Olcott to have a dream in which she called into existence a mysterious Hindu spirit whom she called Mahatmu Koot Hoomi. This spirit left instructions for the organization of a society, upon which the New-York Theosophical Society was formed in 1875,

In 1875 Mme. Blavatsky created a mild sensation by marrying a merchant from Tiflis named Betanelly, who got a divorce from her two or three months later.

In the following year the death of Joseph Henry Louis Charles, Baron de Palm, reputed a rich man, afforded Mme. Blavatsky opportunity for further notoriety, by giving him what was known and advertised as the "Pagan Funeral" in the Masonic Temple. Five months later Mme. Blavatsky created a new sensation by having the body cremated, it being the first cremation in the United States.

In 1878, with Col. Olcott, she went to India, and in Madras established a shrine and a cabinet, specially designed for an earthly post office for the delivery of Mahatmu’s letters. A branch was subsequently established by her in London.

The London Society for Psychic Research sent Dr. Hodgson to Madras to investigate this shrine. After five months he made an elaborate report, exposing the imposture. The results of this was a violent quarrel between Col. Olcott and Mme. Blavatsky. The latter went to Paris to stay until the storm blew over.

When the two parted company, Col. Olcott retained the Madras Shrine, terming his society the Exoteric Theosophical Society. Mme. Blavatsky, in England, formed the Esoteric Society.

Mme. Blavatsky is described by Prof. Coues as obese, with small and pretty hands and feet and long finger nails. She had a nose slightly snubbed, flossy yellow hair, a Tartar face, fat cheeks, and high cheek bones. She always tried to make herself out many years older than she was.